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Thanks to a request from the Muslim Women’s Sport Foundation, the Amateur Swimming Association (ASA) has relaxed its swimsuit regulations meaning that Muslim women swimmers and women suffering from pre-existing medical conditions now have the right to race in loose-fitting, full-body outfits.

Rimla Akhtar, from the Muslim Women’s Sport Foundation, stated that: “Participation in sport amongst Muslim women is increasing at a rapid pace. It is imperative that governing bodies adapt and tailor their offerings to suit the changing landscape of sport, including those who access their sport.”

 Until now, full-body suits like those worn by Olympians have been banned, due to their performance-enhancing benefits in helping to streamline the shape of the body.

The new guidance, which only applies to amateur competitions in England, states that competitors will not be allowed to wear any suit that a competition referee believes will increase performance. However, should the swimmer choose to wear a loose fitting suit, the referee is not required to question the swimmer further, and the ASA do not want athletes being asked about their reasonings for wearing such a suit. 

In a statement, Chris Bostock, chairman of the ASA sport governing board, said: “This is a very positive step forward for competitive swimming in England and one that we hope will encourage many more people to take part… By changing these rules we hope to encourage a new generation of swimmers.”

The Daily Telegraph reported on Wednesday that Islam is set to be the largest religion in the world by 2070. It is the only religion said to be growing faster than the population of the globe as a whole. The research was the result of work by the American research body the Pew Research Centre, which analysed data around demographic change within the world’s major religions. Numbers of Muslims on the whole are due to expand by 73% between 2010 and 2050, followed by Christianity, which is due to increase its number of followers by 35%.

The world’s population is predicted to grow by 37% between 2010 and 2050, and if they continue at this rate past 2050, then Muslims are predicted to outstrip numbers of Christians by 2070. Muslims are also due to make up 10% of the population of Europe. The projected changes are thought to be because Muslims have higher fertility rates, with an average of 3.1 children being produced per woman, compared to an average of 2.7 among Christians. 34% of Muslims on the whole are aged under 15, ensuring many have child-producing years ahead of them.

Conversely, atheists, agnostics and non-religious people are predicted to decline from 16.4% of the world’s population to 13.2% by 2020. This comes in spite of the fact that numbers of people who identify as non-believers are rising in North America in Europe.

Pew also drew upon findings from their 2016 report showing that hostility towards Muslims has become a growing concern within Europe. It showed how negative sentiments towards Muslims were on the rise in Europe due to high-profile terrorist attacks and levels of immigration. Some of the countries most likely to display these sentiments were Hungary, Poland and Greece.

The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) had reported similar findings in 2015, showing that European countries were showing increasing tendencies towards Islamophobia and online hate speech, in particular claiming that the belief that Islam was incompatible with the West was a growing phenomenon.

The fact that the Muslim population within Europe and across the world is set to grow at a considerable rate could have either positive or negative implications for the way it is viewed by non-Muslims. Higher rates of Muslims could lead to their becoming a more accepted part of the demographic make-up of many countries – but could similarly prompt more far-right rhetoric about Muslims ‘taking over.’ Hopefully, the demographic change will lead to greater tolerance and acceptance, particularly within Europe and America.

The Jerusalem Post reported yesterday that Britain has pledged £13.4m to the organisation Community Security Trust (CST) for increasing security provision around Jewish institutions, including schools, nurseries and synagogues. The government’s Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, described Jews as a ‘legitimate and desirable target’ for terrorist groups such as Islamic State, citing attacks on Jews in places such as Paris, Copenhagen, Brussels and Toulouse.

Antisemitism is also reported to be at record levels in the UK, which Ms. Rudd insisted the government has been working to overcome. She drew attention to the recent jailing of an internet troll who sent death threats to Labour MP Luciana Berger, as well as the government’s attempts to work with internet companies to fight online abuse.

Her words came in the shadow of the accusations of antisemitism made against the Labour party that prompted an inquiry conducted by former head of Liberty, Shami Chakrabarti. However, members of the CST, whom Ms. Rudd was addressing, were quick to point out that antisemitism routinely crossed party lines and that such sentiments regularly came from people on both the right and the left of the political spectrum.

Online abuse towards MPs from minority backgrounds has become a familiar spectacle in recent years. Scottish minister Humza Yousaf was subjected to a flurry of online abuse in the aftermath of the Paris terror attacks in November 2015. Police launched an investigation into the tweets, which included claims that Mr. Yousaf was a terrorist sympathiser and needed to be deported, along with threats that he would be castrated.

Police investigations into any incidents of online abuse and prejudice, whether it be Islamophobia or antisemitism, are welcome; however it is notable that Mr. Yousaf’s tormentor was punished with a fine, whereas the person perpetrating abuse against Ms. Berger received a prison sentence. Government attempts to combat racism should be aimed equally at all vulnerable groups, and as a result, Ms. Rudd should make similar attempts to reach out to British Muslims.

 

The Guardian and The Times of Israel report the detaining of Jacek Miedlar, 28, a controversial far-right former priest from Poland. 

He was held by British border security at 8.40am in Stansted Airport on the 25th February 2017, hours before he was due to address an anti-Islam rally in Telford, Shropshire. Miedlar was subsequently barred entry by the UK Border Agency. 

The former Catholic priest, an icon for far-right extremists in Poland, was travelling to Telford, to address a rally organised by Britain First. The small town was chosen to host the march following a Daily Mail report which described Telford as “the new Rotherham”, referring to child sexual exploitation by “Muslim grooming gangs”.

Promoting the march, deputy leader of Britain First, Jayda Fransen tweeted last week: “Come and stand with us against Muslim grooming gangs!”

Miedlar’s blend of religious zeal and xenophobic nationalism has a sizeable following in Poland and a small audience among younger Poles in Britain. His speeches target the political left, Islam, Jews and immigration.

The protest has been broadly condemned by the town’s residents, including Conservative MP, Lucy Allan, who accused Miedlar of using the experiences of child abuse victims to gain political leverage.

Miedlar has been described by Rafal Pankowski, a Professor at Warsaw’s Collegium Civitas as “a radical nationalist on every front: anti-gay, anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic”, and was invited by Britain’s First as part of their campaign to build relationships with foreign nationalists in preparation for a “civil war” with Islam. 

ITV News and Chronicle Live report a story of a man who has been fined £250 for wearing a racially offensive t-shirt which displayed an anti-refugee image in a Newcastle shopping centre.

Peter Hunt, 44, pleaded guilty to a racially aggravated public order offence for wearing the derogatory t-shirt at Eldon Square in July 2016.

Following a general increase in hate crime across the North-East, Northumbria Police have warned those who commit hate crimes that they intend to track them down, and bring them to justice. 

DCI Deborah Alderson, from the Safeguarding Department at Northumbria Police said: “The important thing to highlight about this case is that this type of behaviour will not be tolerated either by the community here or by Northumbria Police”.

“Targeting refugees in this manner” she continued, “is a hate crime which is never acceptable and offenders will be pursued and prosecuted”. 

The Evening Standard reports on the jailing of a white supremacist who “idolised Hitler” and posted “racist, Islamophobic, homophobic and anti-Semitic calls to arms on social media”.

Sean Creighton, 45, posted an image of Hitler online with the message “kill the Muslims”.

He possessed an electronic document entitled “White Resistance Manual 2.4” which contained details of shotguns, improvised weapons and explosives, and harassment.

Prosecutor Jonathan Sandiford told Kingston Crown Court, “The defendant was a committed racist, a member of the National Front”.

He told the court the document Creighton possessed was “a complete guide on how to prepare for and conduct a terrorist campaign”.

Creighton, from Enfield, had also posted an image of a gun alongside a Swastika with the words, “Jews prepare to die”.

The court heard that he had posted content on social media to almost 700 followers but believed no harm was done as “he was contacting people who had similar views”.

Creighton pleaded guilty to eight charges in total, including a terror-related charge of collecting information which could be useful to someone committing or preparing an act of terrorism. 

He pleaded guilty to six counts of publishing or distributing materials likely to stir up racial hatred and a further count of possessing racially inflammatory materials.

Creighton was jailed for five years.

The Mirror and The Courier both report on the case of three men who admitted attacking Muslim takeaway staff in Fife following terror attacks in Paris in November 2015.

Robbie Smart, 18, Connor Crombie, 19, and Darren Macduff, 18, pleaded guilty to attacking store owner Mohammed Khalid and employee Mohammed Nadeem outside the Caspian fast food takeaway in Methil, Fife.

The trio were cleared of behaving in a ‘racially aggravated manner intended to cause alarm and distress’ however, alongside four others – Kyle Campbell, 19, Sean Wood, 20, Brandon Munro, 18, and a 17-year-old who cannot be named for legal reasons.

The group previously appeared at Kirkcaldy Sheriff Court in July to enter pleas, while the trial was delayed in December after prosecutors failed to retrieve all the CCTV footage available from the shop 

Khalid, 53 and Nadeem, 35, were kicked and punched in the attack, which occurred while they were closing the shop on 15 November 2015. Khalid suffered a serious facial injury during the assault and said some who attacked him had been “shouting about ISIS”. 

The court was shown CCTV footage of the “large scale disturbance”, which occurred the day after attacks in Paris killed over 100 people.

Sentencing of the three guilty men was deferred by Sheriff James Williamson until next month in order for social work background reports to be completed.

Khalid closed the takeaway last year after 25 years, citing fears of safety for himself and his family. He told the Daily Record, “I thought I could return, but the nightmares and flashbacks have just been too much for me to handle. I don’t feel safe there anymore.” 

STV News reported on 20 March that Campbell, Wood and Munro were given community payback orders by Sheriff James Williamson. They were ordered to carry out 100 hours of unpaid community work over the next nine months.’

 

 

The Burnley Express reports on a woman who has been fined for hurling racist abuse at a Muslim taxi driver and assaulting a police officer following a night out in Burnley.

Jessica Horne, 26, insulted taxi driver Fiyaz Ahmed “20 times” and spat at him during a rant at a taxi office in Church Street, Burnley on January 22.

Burnley Magistrates court heard Ms Horne and her then partner, Daniel Atkinson, 28, had been out drinking when Ms Horne went into the taxi office at 5.30am seeking a ride home. The court heard Ms Horne was told the fare charge would be £5 when she began uttering racist abuse. 

The court was told Ms Horne repeatedly abused Mr Ahmed before spitting on him. When police were called to the cab office where Mr Ahmed works, Ms Horne carried on her attack and made offensive comments to PC Ivan Brown, who is of mixed ethnicity.

Ms Horne continued being abusive as she was transported to the police station where she “booted” PC Brown in the shin while in the custody suite leaving him “gashed and in pain”. Her tirade lasted “40 minutes” the court was told.

Horne, who cares for dementia sufferers, expressed remorse for her actions saying she had a limited recollection of events due to her intoxication. The court heard Ms Horne had been “extremely remorseful, sorry and tearful during her police interview”.

Keith Rennison, defending Horne, told the court that his client was something of a “binge drinker” who has tried to curtail her intake of alcohol since the incident.

He said, “She has referred herself to her GP as a result of these offences and she has been prescribed anti-depressant medication. It’s allowed her to keep working, which is something she is keen to do.” 

Deborah Morgan, representing Atkinson, said he was “similarly disgusted with his behaviour” but “wasn’t involved in any of the language Miss Horne was using”. She said he had his coat with his phone and wallet stolen in a nightclub and was trying to get a taxi home which he meant to pay for the following day.

District Judge Alexandra Simmonds told Horne her behaviour had been “absolutely appalling.”

She said, “These are serious offences because of how long the incident went on for.” 

Horne admitted racially aggravated harassment, racially aggravated common assault and assaulting a police officer. She was sentenced to a community order with a 12-week curfew preventing her from being out in public between 9pm and 7am. She was also ordered to pay £200 compensation, £85 costs and an £85 victim surcharge. 

Atkinson pleaded guilty to damaging a Vauxhall Zafira and being drunk and disorderly. He was fined £300 and ordered to pay £50 compensation, £85 costs and an £85 victim surcharge.

 

 

 

The Mirror reports that UKIP’s immigration spokesman, John Bickley, has been “slammed for retweeting an outrageous cartoon” which echoed 1960s racism by using a political slogan not dissimilar to that used in the notorious Smethwick by-election in 1964.

Bickley retweeted a cartoon featuring the slogan “If you want a jihadi for a neighbour, vote Labour” which was originally posted on a Twitter account run by David Jones. The Guardian notes the Jones account “regularly shares anti-Muslim and far right memes”. 

The image used in the cartoon is an edited version of one originally produced in August 2015 by The Times’ cartoonist Peter Brookes. It featured people “clambering into a lorry with the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, in the driver’s seat, with one sitting on top of the vehicle waving a communist flag”. The cartoon was produced at the height of Europe’s refugee crisis with the figures on the lorry depicting refugees and migrants.

The image retweeted by Bickley edited out the cartoon’s original title, ‘Entryism’, and removed the communist flag. 

The cartoon’s slogan bore resemblance to the shocking phrase used during the 1964 Smethwick by-election campaign – “If you want a n***** for a neighbour, vote Labour”. Peter Griffiths, the Conservative candidate and winner of the by-election, refused to condemn the phrase, saying he regarded it as “a manifestation of popular feeling”. 

Bickley later apologised “for any offence caused”. He told the Huffington Post in a statement: “Yesterday I retweeted a cartoon about the potential consequences of Labour’s support for uncontrolled immigration without realising it relied on a rhyme that had been used in an election in 1964 in a racially abusive context. I have since deleted the retweet and apologise for any offence caused.”

Labour politicians including John Spellar, MP for Warley, and MEP Seb Dance called for Bickley to be sacked. Dance referenced the “disgusting Smethwick 1964 slogan” and said the episode reflected the “true face of UKIP”.

UKIP’s top brass refused to condemn Bickley. UKIP leader Paul Nuttall, who is contesting the Stoke-on-Trent by-election next week, defended Bickley’s “lack of understanding” and said, “He’s got my support, absolutely, he’s apologised for it.” 

When political correspondent Robert Peston tweeted a message asking whether Bickley’s actions were acceptable to UKIP, the party’s principal donor, Arron Banks, responded “Seems eminently accurate to me”.

The incident is the latest in a long line of abusive posts against Muslims perpetrated or supported by UKIP representatives and candidates over the years. Back in July 2016, the Loughborough Echo reported on an investigation launched by the party after a number of anti-Muslim posts on a Facebook page purportedly belonging to a Ukip councillor on Shepshed Town council, Timothy Paul Hicks, were found. A number of posts with “tasteless captions aimed at the Muslim faith” were found on the page of an individual named Tim Paul Hicks, prompting a probe by UKIP’s Charnwood branch.

In Caerphilly, Bobby Douglas was prevented from standing in the Bedwas, Trethomas and Machen council by-election in September 2015 after a number of offensive comments against Muslims and migrants were discovered on his Facebook profile. 

Steve Latham, who stood as the party’s candidate for West Bromwich East in the 2015 General Election, was banned from future elections after making a number of comments on his Facebook page, including statements that Islam was an “evil cult” which had “infiltrated the Labour Party”, and that “European integration amounts to genocide”.

 

 

A story on the MailOnline website at the weekend reporting on the announcement that Debenhams will sell hijabs as part of a new range of Muslim clothing to be launched in its stores from May, itself became a story after readers posted numerous comments online criticising the department store and calling for a ‘boycott’.

The new range of clothing, including hijabs, tops, dresses, jumpsuits, kimono wraps, hijab pins and caps, will be sold at five of its stores across the country. Aab, an international brand which sells ‘contemporary modest wear’ for women, will open an outlet inside Debenhams’ central London store on Oxford Street.

The Mail Online reported other stores which will stock the new range as Birmingham’s Bullring, Westfield in Shepherd’s Bush, Manchester’s Trafford Centre and Leicester’s Highcross Shopping Centre. All the cities have large ethnic minority populations.

The roll-out of the Aab brand in Debenhams’ UK stores coincides with an international launch at Debenhams’ branches across the Middle East and Asia, including in Dubai, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Iran, Indonesia and Malaysia.

Jeanette Whithear, international trading director for Debenhams, said the new collection would be “highly relevant” and “cater for broader customer needs”.

She said the addition of the Aab range “enables us to offer collections that are highly relevant in both international markets and to our domestic customers.”

Aab founder Nazmin Alim was enthusiastic about the opportunities saying the partnership “opens up some very exciting opportunities for us. Debenhams is a quintessentially British department store and among the few department store brands with a truly global reach. 

While Debenhams is not the first UK department store to sell hijabs or clothing aimed at Muslim customers, the announcement nevertheless elicited a mixed, and prolific response in the online sphere. The MailOnline article attracted 1,400 comments from readers with some ‘losing their minds’  while others attempted to interject some perspective.

One reader, named ‘null’ simply wrote “Boycott!” while ‘JonnyC’ wrote “I never shop at Debenhams anyway but even more so now”. Others who were more circumspect included ‘carmelthecat’ who wrote, “There are plenty of shops in my area selling these goods. So what? You don’t have to buy them or enter the shops….Take your choice.” 

‘Second city’ from Birmingham commended the store saying, “It’s a good idea diversity is a good thing. People need to relax and stop getting upset over it.” ‘Hailstar81’ praised Debenhams strategy. “Fair enough, bringing in an international concession that provides attire to a certain section of the market is actually a very good business strategy!..I don’t understand why anyone has a problem with this.”

The Indy100 reported that the hysteria was not solely confined to the Daily Mail’s comments section, with activity also noted in the Twitter sphere. In an article titled ‘Debenhams is selling hijabs and bigots are losing their minds’, the news site posted a number of Twitter reactions to the story.

Among them was a tweet from ‘Yeeha’ who apparently sent Debenhams a letter of complaint while ‘Mart31’ called the store a “disgrace” and said he would “push for a petition”.

A tweet from ‘Karla McKarlaFace’ summed up the over-reaction by addressing those who were “up in arms that Debenhams is going to sell hijab”. She commented, “They’ve been selling them for decades, you utter morons, just called scarves.”